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of God, nay, the whole perfect will of God, fully set down in the Holy Scriptures, in every page almost whereof we find this urged and pressed upon us, that to know our Master's will, without performing it, is fruitless unto us; nay, will intend the heat, and add virtue and power to the lake of fire and brimstone, reserved for such empty and unfruitful Christians: and shall we, I say, content ourselves any longer with bare hearing and knowing of the word, and no more? God forbid ! rather let us utterly avoid this holy temple of God; let us rather cast his word behind our backs, and be as ignorant of his holy will as ever our forefathers were; let us contrive any course to cut off all commerce and intercourse, all communion and acquaintance with our God, rather than when we profess to know him, and willingly to allow him all those glorious titles and attributes, by which he hath made himself known unto us in his word, in our hearts to deny him, in our lives and practices to dishonour him, and use him despitefully.
38. It were no hard matter, I think, to persuade any, but resolved hardened minds, that fruit is necessary before any admission into heaven, only by proposing to your considerations the form and process of that judgment, to which you and every man in his own person must submit. The Author's word may be taken for the truth of what I shall tell you; for the story we receive from his mouth that shall be Judge of all, and therefore is likely to know what course and order himself will observe.
39. In the general resurrection, when sentence of absolution, or condemnation, shall be passed upon every one according to his deserts, know
ledge is on no side mentioned: but one, because he hath clothed the naked, and fed the hungry, and done such-like works of charity, he is taken; and the rest, that have not done so much, are refused. Will it avail any one then to say, Lord, we confess we have not done these works, but we have spent many an hour in hearing and talking of thy word; nay, we have maintained, to the utmost of our power, and to our own great prejudice, many opinions and tenets? Alas! we little thought, that any spotted imperfect work of ours was requisite; we were resolved, that, for working, thou hadst done enough for us to get us to heaven. Will any such excuses as these serve the turn? far be it from us to think so.
40. If you will turn to Matt. vii. 22, you shall find stronger and better excuses than these to no purpose. Many shall say unto me, (saith Christ) Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name?" These were something more than hearers, they had spent their time in preaching and converting souls unto Christ; (which is a work, if directed to a right end, of the most precious and admirable value that it is possible for a creature to perform :) and yet, while they did not practise themselves what they taught others, they became castaways. Others there were, that had "cast out devils, and done many miracles ;" and yet so loved the unclean spirits that themselves were possessed withal, that they could not endure to part company then, and now were never likely. 41. But have not I all this while mistaken my auditory? Were not these instructions fitter for the universities? Had it not been more fit and seasonable for me to have instructed and cate
chized mine hearers, rather than to give them cautions and warnings, lest they should abuse their knowledge? No, surely! instructions to make use of knowledge in our practice and conversation, and not to content ourselves with mere knowing, and hearing, and talking of the mysteries of our salvation, cannot in the most ignorant congregation be unseasonable. Even the heathen, who were utter strangers from the knowledge of God's ways, did, notwithstanding, render themselves inexcusable, for detaining some part of the truth, as it were, naturally ingrafted in them, in unrighteousness. So that there is no man in the world but knows much more than he practises; every man hides some part, at least, of his talent in a napkin; wherefore let every man, even the most ignorant that hears me this day, search the most inward secret corners of his heart for this treasure of knowledge, and let him take it forth, and put it into the usurer's hands, and trade thriftily with it, that he may return his Lord his own with increase." Blessed is that servant, whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing: verily, I say unto you, he shall make him ruler over all his household."
42. And thus I have gone through one member of my first general, namely, The consideration wherein the imprudence of the fool in my text doth consist. In the prosecution whereof I have discovered unto you, how severally Satan plants his engines for the subversion of the church. the primitive times, when religion was more stirring and active, and charity in fashion, he essayed to corrupt men's understandings with heresies; and there, by the way, was observed his order and
method, how distinctly beginning in those first times with the first article, he hath orderly proceeded to corrupt the next following; and now, in these last days, he is got to even the last end of the Creed. But since, by the mercy and goodness of God, we are delivered, and stand firm in the "faith once delivered to the saints;" he hath raised another engine against us that stand, and that is, to work, that our orthodox opinions do us no good, which he performs by snatching the word out of our hearts, and making it unfruitful in our lives. Now, those that are thus inveigled and wrought upon, are merely befooled by the devil, or rather by themselves; for so I told that St. James says; and, for an example I proposed the learned pharisees, who, for all their learning and knowledge in the Scripture, yet our Saviour denounceth eight several woes against them for being fools and blind guides. So that the fool in hand was not opposed to a learned man, but to a prudent man; and therefore, a worthy doctor of our church did well define faith to be a spiritual prudence, that is, a knowledge sought out only for practice. And there I compared faith with moral prudence, and the fruit thereof, charity, with the virtue of universal justice. Therefore, lest the very heathen should rise up in judgment against us, for not doing so much, with the help and advantage of God's word, as they could without it; I did and do beseech you, not to content yourselves with mere knowing and hearing, with only a conceit of faith without works; for that was an ancient heresy in the Nicolaitans, (whom God by name professed a hatred to, as Eusebius tells us.) And, for an effectual motive, I told you how, at
the last great trial, you shall not be catechized, how well you can say your Creed, or how many catechisms without book, but how fruitful in works of charity your faith hath been. And so I come to the second member of the first general, namely, The consideration how dangerous and grievous a burden knowledge will be, where it is fruitless and ineffectual; of which briefly.
43. I will once again repeat that Divine sentence of the Psalmist in Psal. cxi. 10. "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and a good understanding have all they that do thereafter;" i. e. till a man put his knowledge in practice, he is so far from being a good man, that he is scarce a man, hath not the understanding of a man, till he do, till he fall at work: he was wiser a great deal before he gained his knowledge. Knowledge alone is a goodly purchase in the mean time: it is so worthy a purchase, that, as it should seem by our Saviour's account, till a man have obtained some competency in knowledge, he hath gotten no right to the kingdom of darkness and hell.
44. For, certainly, no man can justly challenge damnation, but he that is burdened with sin: now, he that hath no knowledge but is utterly, blind in his understanding, hath no sin, that is, in comparison. The words are: (John ix. 39, &c.) "And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind:" not as if Christ did imprint, or inflict, blindness upon any man, but only occasionally; that is, those who walk in darkness, and love it, when the light comes upon them, and discovers their wandering, they hate it, and turn their eyes from it,